Major Shakeup As Office of Community Development Transforms into Office of Planning And Building As Town Eyes Succession Plan

Photo: Belmont’s new Town Planner, Chris Ryan

While not as thrilling (or funny) as “Succession,” the Netflix series that detailed a family fight for control of a global media and entertainment conglomerate, a major change in the structure of an important town department has as much to do with

At its Monday, Sept. 18, meeting, Belmont Select Board heard Town Engineer Glen Clancy detail the recent reorganization of the Office of Community Development as it transforms into the newly-formed Office of Planning and Building (OPB) and an Engineering Division has been created within the Department of Public Works.

A major part of the reorganization is hiring Christopher Ryan, a 30-year veteran of municipal planning, as the OPB’s first director and Belmont’s new town planner. The reorganization was effective on Sept. 5, Ryan’s first day on the job.

Clancy will continue as town engineer within the DPW while his assistant, Ara Yogurtian, will hold onto his post as Inspector of Buildings while being liasion to the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The changes will allow the town to prepare for some “big” retirements in the near future, according to Town Administrator Patrice Garvin. While Clancy said he and Yogurtian “are not going anywhere, anytime soon,” the changes prevent the town from being “caught short” with sudden departures and leave the town scrambling to find experienced replacements.

“Succession planning is two-fold,” said Garvin. “It’s really to get people into to learn a lot from the people that are already here, and that will be moving on eventually.”

Speaking to the Board, Clancy said the reorganization was prompted by “vacancies across the spectrum” of the OCD – including the critical town planner position – that were nearly impossible to fill in the current low unemployment job environment. As a result of the unfilled openings, he and Yogurtian were saddled with multiple tasks.

Including being town engineer, Clancy was director of the Office of Community Development, inspector of buildings, and zoning enforcement officer while Yogurtian was juggling the assistant director post, field engineering, inspecting buildings and street work, board work, and supervising the local building inspector.

“It was getting too difficult to cover all the bases effectively and efficiently, so that’s another reason why it was time to do this,” said Clancy.

Select Board Vice Chair Elizabeth Dionne reiterated Monday that important departments have been woefully understaffed for years, noting the Planning Department will be integral in the planned revamping of the town’s zoning bylaws.

“I looked at those two positions and said, ‘How are we going to fill these two positions should they become vacant?'” said Clancy. “And I didn’t have a good answer.”

With no in-house personnel with the skill set ready to step into either his or Yogurtain’s positions, Clancy and Garvin created a succession plan by “reconstituting the Office of Community Development into something that was sensible and recognizable to the public.”

The first step was combining the planning and building functions under one roof “as they made sense together,” said Clancy. He said that making the hard-to-hire town planner post as the new department director made the position more attractive in the job market, as Ryan was soon hired for the critical post.

“The proof is in the pudding, the fact that we were not able to fill this position of the town planner and then finally (after the restructuring) to find someone who is highly capable of the position,” said Clancy.

Engineering functions would be housed with the DPW, which most communities have it located.

As critical as having an efficient departmental structure, there will be opportunities to mentor employees and new hires for future positions. The new Engineering Department will hire a resident engineer, “an immediate need,” who will be overseeing permitting, evacuation, and pavement restoration, as well as becoming the town’s stormwater coordinator.

“This is someone who could act as my assistant and maybe even be a successor as the town engineer down the road,” said Clancy.

Partridge Lane To Be Closed Off At Winter As An Incremental Step In Larger Traffic Project

Photo: The intersection at Partridge Lane and Winter Street which will soon be blocked off

Construction barrels are coming to close off a dodgy intersection as the town takes a first, gradual step in a much bigger project.

At its Aug. 25 meeting, the Belmont Select Board approved a temporary six-month closure from Partridge Lane to Winter Street while the town’s transportation oversight board evaluates whether the action should be made permanent. The move comes as an “incremental” improvement to a section of road which could see major changes to improve traffic and pedestrian safety.

According to Glenn Clancy, the director of the Office of Community Development, work has been going on for several years between the town and the Transportation Advisory Committee on improving Concord Avenue at the intersections at Winter and Mill streets.

“It’s a challenging project,” said Clancy, telling the board the town and committee have settled on a concept plan in which roundabouts (traffic circles) will be constructed at each location. While calling it “a great plan,” there are two significant “hurdles” facing the project: to fit the circles at the sites. First, it will require taking “a sliver” of land from the Rock Meadow Conservation Area, which will necessitate getting approval from the town’s Conservation Commission and the state legislature. The second barrier is having a funding source, which Clancy admits, the town doesn’t have for the project.

It was during “robust” conservations at public meetings about the project that neighbors brought up the speed of the traffic coming off Concord Avenue, which makes the side street junctions “tricky” to maneuver at best, said Clancy. He noted that closing off the nearby side streets is part of the project.

So while the more significant project is delayed without a timetable, “there is no reason we can’t address this issue independently” of the roundabouts.

Clancy said the street closure would eliminate the “point of conflict” for motorists who access Winters Street from Concord Avenue. It will also appease the pleas of residents along Partridge and Rayburn Road who complain commuters are using the streets as a “cut through” to jump the queue at the corner of Winter and Concord.

If it is decided to make the roadblock peIf the roadblock is made permanent, the barrier will be similar to the island-like border at the end of Winslow at the Cushing Village complex, significant enough to stop vehicles but allowing fire equipment to drive over.

David Coleman, chair of the Transportation Advisory Committee, said his group unanimously approved the concept for the next six months. Clancy admitted that some residents in the newly closed-off streets “weren’t pleased with this. But I think the consensus was that this was probably a good idea and that we’re going to do it as a trial would allow the residents to determine whether or not it was effective and had value.”

The Grass To Be Greener Along Sidewalks As Town Focuses On Separating People, Cars

Photo: Along Bartlett Avenue.

Grass is good, according to Belmont Office of Community Development Director Glenn Clancy.

No, the longtime town engineer is not expressing his opinion on the future of marijuana sales in Belmont, but rather the grass strip between sidewalks and the roadways which are located on a majority of the town’s byways.

Now under a new approach prompted by the complaints of residents along Bartlett Avenue in the PQ Park neighborhood, the 10 percent of roads lacking a vegetative median can expect a greenway within five years, Clancy told the Belmont Board of Selectmen at its Monday, March 12 meeting.

The new initiative is a change in the town’s current sidewalk policy, said Selectman Adam Dash, coming after a comprehensive study rating the town’s sidewalks – which showed a majority of concrete paths were in good condition – was presented in the fall and after the public voiced concerns that walkways were being neglected in favor of roadway repair. 

The new policy, written by Clancy, will address the real issue facing not just the residents on Bartlett Avenue but throughout town is “the lack of adequate separation between the roadway and the sidewalks.”

After Bartlett Avenue was reconstructed, there was no buffer between the roadway and sidewalk which allowed vehicles to park or even drive onto the walkway, posing a dangerous condition for pedestrians especially so close to the Butler Elementary School.

In his research, Clancy found that the vast majority of streets have some curbing – either asphalt or granite – or/ and including a grass shoulder, as seen on most neighborhood side streets, which separates the road and sidewalk. 

“What I came to realize is the importance of that shoulder treatment,” said Clancy, noting that Bartlett Avenue only has an asphalt shoulder. “And that shoulder treatment must provide a buffer for pedestrians.”

He noted that only grass strip barriers without a curb do an excellent job keeping cars from creeping onto sidewalks. Grass also allow for trees to be planted in the barrier adding an “additional element as a buffer between automobiles and the sidewalk.”

In the new policy, “under no circumstances is an asphalt shoulder ever a good idea and that is the condition we are trying to get to the most,” Clancy said.

Clancy told the board that of the town’s 400 roadway “segments” (basically the road between intersections), only 10 percent or 40 portions of streets “have the need for either granite curbing because they are a major road (Cross Street and segments of Grove and School streets) … and 30 neighborhood streets that have asphalt shoulders where we want to reestablish [barriers].”

With the scope of work established, Clancy’s most significant question was funding. He told the board with updated data on roadway and sidewalk conditions and has made a considerable dent (of nearly 50 percent) in the cost of repairing the backlog of roads, his department has an adequate amount in its pavement management program to meet its current reconstruction cycle but also have “an additional $300,000 of capacity that we can put to curbing and sidewalks” over the next five years. 

Under the new five year plan, the sidewalks with non-grass, no curb barriers given the highest priority are along roadways which are:

  • School walking routes which will be retrofitted with curbing and a grass median. 
  • General walking routes – the main roads you use from neighborhood roads to main “collecting” roads (with granite curbs) leading to a destination site. 
  • Use-demand routes leading to parks, shops etc.
  • neighborhood roads, to re-establish a grass shoulder. 

With funding secured and a needed policy change before it, the Selectmen approved the changes unanimously. 

14 Roads Slated For Reconstruction in Fiscal ’18

Photo: It’s so bad, it’s a winner! (Thanks, Google)

For homeowners on 14 roads in Belmont: Congratulations, you’ve won the bad street lottery.

According to the town’s Office of Community Development, the thoroughfares you live on are deemed so in disrepair – more than half of the roads have a pavement condition index (PCI) rating in the 30s, considered a “poor” grade where travel is “uncomfortable with frequent bumps or depressions” – that it made the cut to undergo a complete reconstruction in fiscal 2018 which begins July 1. 

The “winners” are:

  • Williston Road from Trapelo to Horne (with a PCI rating of 34)
  • Alma Avenue from Bartlett to Belmont
  • Louise Road from Edgemore to Becket
  • Newton Street from Belmont to Fairview
  • Ridge Road from Belmont to White
  • Carleton Road from Washington to Chester
  • Juniper Road from Somerset to Fletcher
  • Branchaud Road from Carleton to Washington
  • Creeley Road from Slate to Hammond
  • Harriet Avenue from Bartlett to Belmont
  • Benton Road from Payson to Oakley
  • Lawndale Street from Oakley to Payson Road
  • Townsend Road from Payson (North) to Payson (South)
  • Payson Road from Oakley to Belmont

The list is subject to change based on the availability of utility work by National Grid to be completed on the roads in 2017. All the work in fiscal ’18 follows the replacement of nearly 100-year-old water mains by the Department of Public Work’s Water Division. 

Belmont Begins, Yet Again, Search to Find Source Polluting Mystic Watershed


Glenn Clancy may not look like Benedict Cumberbatch, but like the hugely popular sleuth the actor plays on BBC television, Belmont’s town engineer will be doing his best Sherlock Holmes as he attempts to find the source of what has been dirtying up a nearby major watershed that has been dogging the town for more than 15 years. 

“Am I confident that we are going to get it this time?” Clancy rhetorically pondered to the Belmontonian after this past Monday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting.  

“How confident are the Red Sox when they step on the field for a ballgame? We are going in with the idea that we will get it done,” he said.

With a finite budget and state and national environmental regulatory agencies breathing down his neck, Clancy is pinning his hopes on a game of elimination to pinpoint where the worst of the contaminants are coming from and marshal his resources there. 

Belmont has been on the state’s Department of Environmental Protection going back to January 2000 of being noncompliant of acceptable water quality standards leading to pollutants entering the Mystic River Watershed, a collection of rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds that drain an area of approximately 76 square miles and 21 municipalities north of Boston.

And for the past decade, the town has sunk into the ground several million dollars to repair and replace infrastructure to improve the quality of the water entering the system. But the work so far has had little impact on several water sources within Belmont with locations such as the Little River and the Winn’s Brook receiving poor or failing mark for water quality. 

It’s not a mystery what is creating the problem, said Clancy.

“This is strictly about the sanitary sewage system mingling with our stormwater system. So in Belmont, the biggest contributors to this problem are deteriorating sewage pipes to where that sewage is leeching up and finding its way into the storm drain system,” he said. 

The other source is toilets that contractors or homeowners have placed over a storm drain pipe. “While the decaying pipes are our most important issue, we have found 10 to 15 illicit direct connections to the storm drain system that we have already mitigated,” said Clancy. “We expect to discover more with this testing.” 

Clancy, who is also the director of the Office of Community Development, told the Selectmen Monday that the $70,000 (from a total of $200,000 the town approved to seek a solution) to conduct sample testing of 15 outfalls sites to determine which of those are responsible for the majority of pollution being sent into one of the Mystic River watershed tributaries located in Belmont. 

“We’ve done [testing and remedies] two or three times in the past decade with construction work totaling $8 million and the next phase to identify specific problems,” Clancy told the Belmontonian.

“The sampling is the first step in what ultimately will be another construction process,” said Clancy. 

“Once you identify the outfall as ‘dirty,’ you then have to determine where the source of that contamination is coming from,” Clancy told the Belmontonian.

The fix has mostly been lining the deteriorated pipe which “still in a structural condition that allows us to line it with concrete,” he said. If it is too far gone, the main will need replacing. 

If the survey discovers issues with toilets or interior plumbing, “we find a way to work with the property owner to solve the problem whether that is reconnecting a pipe to the proper main or eliminating the source altogether. The conditions will usually dictate the best way to mitigate.” 

And it won’t be cheap; the town could be open to another $4 million to $6 million over several years to make the necessary repairs, according to Clancy.

Saying that he understands the frustration from residents who will end up paying for the repairs, Clancy said the repairs in the past and the future would begin to show results.

“We spent eight million [dollars] plus already, and every dollar of that eight million plus has fixed some problem. I want people to understand while we still have a problem doesn’t mean that the money that has already been spent has not been spent properly. It has fixed problems that we have identified. The challenge that we have more problems that need to be identified and mitigated,” he said.

“I could never look someone in the eye and say this is going to be the time when we get it because I understand the nature of the problem. All we can continue to do is make a good faith effort to find the sources and mitigate them,” said Clancy. 

Lucky 13: Town Names Streets To Be Resurfaced in 2016

Photo: Palfrey Road.

It’s appropriate that Palfrey Road is adjacent to the large United Methodist Church in Cushing Square. Many drivers seek the solace of prayer before navigating the roadway’s deep potholes and numerous ruts that have destroyed their fair share of residents’ vehicles suspensions, alignments and tires over the past decades.

Now those prayers have been answered as the town’s director of Community Development Glenn Clancy announced at Monday’s Belmont Board of Selectmen meeting on Nov. 2, that the entire 1,705 feet of Palfrey along with a dozen other streets will be reconstructed next year as part of the town’s 2016 Pavement Management Plan. 

“Here’s some good news,” Clancy told the board announcing an agreement with the town’s long-time pavement management consultant Vannasse Hangen Brustlin for $106,400 to perform pavement design and contract development for the streets being repaired. 

The roadways in the 2016 Pavement Management Plan are:

  • Clifton Street from Beatrice Circle to Prospect Street
  • Barlett Avenue from White Street to Harriet Avenue
  • Winslow Road from Hammond Road to Palfrey Road
  • Palfrey Road from Gilbert Road to Common Street
  • Payson Terrace from Payson Road (east) to Payson Road (west)
  • Glendale Road from Common to Orchard streets
  • Cushing Avenue from Pine Street to Payson Road
  • Sharpe Road from School to Washington streets
  • Marion Road from Belmont to Grove streets
  • Albert Avenue from Tobey Road to both Lake and Brighton streets
  • Simmons Avenue from Scott Road to Brighton Street
  • Middlecot Street from north of Cowdin Street to both Claflin and Cross streets
  • Sherman Street from Brighton to Dean streets.